Six years ago, I moved from a house in suburban Montclair into an 18th floor apartment in urban Hoboken. As a reminder of the garden I was giving up, I brought with me a nondescript chive plant in a cheap orange pot which was reminiscent of clay but was only plastic. I stuck it out on the balcony and ignored it.
In exchange for a garden and space, I now had time. No mowing, weeding, pruning, planting. No worries when it froze, snowed, rained, and blew.
I was busy settling into the apartment, and as winter came along I didn’t notice as the chive plant withered into brown straw, but I did notice when it came back to life the next spring. It unfolded, turning green with ease, popping out multiple balls of purple bloom, spreading its tasty thin green spikes into an arrangement as beautiful as a Japanese flower arrangement.
I have learned since that nothing else can survive the fierce winds that sometimes careen down the Hudson River and crash into my balcony.
Over the years the plant hasn’t gotten bigger or smaller. It hugs the outer edge of the cheap orange pot without claiming any more ground. It knows its limits, and seems content to go on living as the seasons dictate.
This raggedy, potent plant reminds me that sometimes over-tending of nature is a problem; nature untended will rouse itself. I might do well to withdraw when life gives me winter, to blossom in spring, to enjoy summer (while occasionally wilting in the heat), and to go dormant after the shocks of fall.